Australia narrows down search area for missing jet

Canberra , March 19: The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said Wednesday that the search operation for the Malaysian airliner that went missing March 8 is being conducted in a smaller area closer to the Western Australian coast.

This comes after the search operation conducted by Australia Tuesday found no result relevant to the missing passenger jet.

John Young, general manager of AMSA’s Emergency Response Division, said a P-3 Orion aircraft of Royal Australian Air Force conducted the search Tuesday, covering an area of about 65,000 sq km, which is about one tenth of the 600,000 sq km search area established by AMSA Monday, Xinhua reported.

Young said three ships passed the area and responded to a broadcast to ships issued by AMSA’s Rescue Coordination Centre in Australia Monday night. Neither the ships nor the aircraft have reported sighting anything connected to the aircraft.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur March 8.

The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea.

The plane was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on board included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City.

“The search condition was good. The search crew saw marine life as they were flying through. So we know we can make sightings. There was no result that is relevant to the search,” Young said Wednesday.

The US National Transportation Safety Board refined the two possible routes taken by the missing plane based on a “better, more detailed” analysis of its fuel reserves. Based on the new routes, the search area was significantly refined.

The new area is about 300,000 square km, about half the size of Tuesday’s search area. It is also a little way east, about 2,600 km to Perth, the capital of Western Australia.

Young said the second day of the search under Australia’s coordination saw four aircraft involved, including two Australian P-3 Orions, one New Zealand P3-K Orion aircraft and one US P-8 Poseidon aircraft.

One ship is in the area Wednesday and another ship is expected to arrive on Thursday afternoon.

“A much better search opportunity (is there) today (in a) smaller area, closer to Perth and (with) more aircraft. I hope it will do better tomorrow when we expect to have four to five aircraft,” Young said.

Meanwhile, according to a report from Male, Maldives police have launched an investigation into reports that residents of the remote island of Kuda Huvadhoo in Dhaal Atoll saw a “low flying jumbo jet ” March 8 morning after the Malaysia Airlines plane went missing.

The police did not reveal any details.

While the disappearance of the jet has left the whole world bewildered, several residents of Kuda Huvadhoo told local media Tuesday that they saw a “low flying jumbo jet” at around 6.15 a.m. March 8.

Aviation Security Command head Mohamed Ziyad told Xinhua Wednesday morning that it was a white aircraft, with red stripes across it which is what the Malaysia Airlines flights typically look like.

Eyewitnesses from the Kuda Huvadhoo concurred that the plane was traveling north to southeast, towards the southern tip of the Addu atoll. They also spoke about the incredibly loud noise that the flight made when it flew over the island.

Earlier reports indicated that the Maldives’ neighbour, Sri Lanka, had opened up its air space on a request by the Malaysian government to search for the missing plane.

Planes from Malaysia, the US, New Zealand and Australia had flown over the island for several days but no sign of the flight was seen. As of now, 26 countries are searching for the missing jet.

IANS